The venerable Sewanee Review remains one of my primary reading experiences, although I often feel when immersed in its pages as if I've gone back in time to the heyday of the Agrarians. While some of its essays, fiction and poetry strike are fusty, the journal is one of the most comprehensive in the range of books reviewed. Edited during its history by some of the standouts of Southern literature, such as Allen Tate, the Sewanee Review has played a major role in enhancing the region's culture. George Core has held the editor's chair for some time, steering a steady course through the shifting currents of publishing.
The winter 2010 issue is one of the most enjoyable the journal has published in some time. Kent Nelson's engaging story "Going Dark," which surprised me with frequent use of the "F-word" and frank sexual content (the Sewanee Review has progressed past the Victorian Age), and David Mason's review of William Logan's "Savage Art" and the Letters of Robert Lowell and Elizabeth Bishop are highlights. I also enjoyed Lowell Edmunds' poem "239 Marlborough Street" in which he recalls visiting Lowell and his wife Elizabeth Hardwick at that famous Boston address. I found readable, although the antique attitudes grew tiresome, Robert Benson's hunting memoir, "The Old Lift of the Heart."
The Sewanee Review stands alone in its refusal to run illustrations. To its credit, it's devoted to words. There's no artwork on the distinctive blue cover, which is decorated only with heavy black type referring to the poems, stories, essays and reviews inside. The only thing different from when the Sewanee Review began publishing in the 19th century is the taped-on barcode, not too difficult to remove.